With the end of 2016 fast approaching, we asked the UK's top officials to look back at the year, outline their goals for 2017 – and shed some light on their festive favourites. John Manzoni, chief executive of the civil service and permanent secretary of the Cabinet Office, takes part in our annual perm secs round-up...
What was your highlight of 2016?
I've had many highlights in 2016! Perhaps the most significant as chief executive was our launch of “A Brilliant Civil Service”. This is our vision for the organisation the civil service can be. One that builds on its core values, is truly inclusive, with skilled people led by inspiring, confident and empowering leaders, focused on high-quality public services and, as a result, providing improved outcomes for the country and its citizens. On a personal and professional level too, I was inspired by a visit I made earlier in the year to Carers UK during Carers Week. Carers Week is a national campaign to raise awareness of caring and recognising the immense contribution carers make, often in the most demanding circumstances. The focus of Carers Week this year was in building carer-friendly communities of the sort I want us all to foster in the civil service.
What has been the most significant change in your department this year?
The Cabinet Office is the prime minister's department – so the most significant change is welcoming the new PM and her team. But I want to make sure that colleagues who are getting on with the day job behind the big set-piece changes are acknowledged too. These colleagues are working hard to deliver the key work that is the glue that holds it all together. Work such as planning and delivering Civil Service Live; producing the Cabinet Office’s new Diversity and Inclusion Strategy; the ongoing analysis of intelligence by the Joint Intelligence Committee; or the recently published workforce strategy in Civil Service HR.
What will be the biggest challenge of 2017 – and how are you preparing to meet it?
The biggest challenge of 2017 for the civil service will be recognising that we will have to prioritise our activities in order to meet the challenge of exiting the EU, and redefining Britain's place in the world, as well as continuing with the transformations that are underway across the civil service. Balancing our clearly full agenda with new challenges while maintaining the essential building of skills within the civil service for the long term will be critical.
What was the best Christmas present that you’ve ever given or received? And the worst?
Best Christmas present: A lifetime subscription to Yachting World magazine given to me by my wife several years ago, so that whenever I am buried in papers and the intractable affairs of the civil service, I can look at pictures of beautiful boats and sunny places to cheer me up.
Worst Christmas present: A lifetime subscription to Yachting World magazine, given to me by my wife several years ago, as every time I look at pictures of beautiful boats and sunny places to cheer me up, I have to come back to being buried in papers and the intractable affairs of the civil service...
More: Perm secs round-up 2016 – Britain's top civil servants review the year and look ahead to 2017